Car: Topcats Racing Tuscan 2 LS7
Owned since: October 2006, conversion completed September 2011
Previously owned: VW Corrado VR6, Renault Clio 182 Trophy
"When I started to get serious about buying a TVR in late 2006 I originally went to look at other models but once I had set eyes on this Tuscan and took it out for a drive I just had to have it. The first few months of ownership were a real learning experience, gradually getting to grips with the car and overcoming a serious case of obsession. The former was assisted by focusing on improvements to the suspension set-up, something that continued over the first few years of owning the car, whilst the latter ... well it just took time for those visits to the garage to stare at the car and the unnecessary polishing and paint rectification to subside!
"Fast-forwarding a few years I started to get the feeling that while I had not truly 'mastered' the car it was beginning to present somewhat less of a challenge. So, upon returning to the UK it was onto the PH classifieds. I quickly found I just couldn't settle on anything that I would rather have without getting into very serious money. I did look seriously at an Ultima (Can-am, Kawasaki Green with an LS7) but it dawned on me that I'd become too attached to the Tuscan. On the basis that at the time I didn't have the garage space, a plan began to form around upgrading the Tuscan - perhaps subconsciously to build my personal interpretation of the car that I would want to buy from TVR if it was still in business.
"The first obvious step was the drivetrain, and more specifically to look at options for upgrading the existing Speed 6 engine. Now I'm a great fan of this engine; it served me faultlessly for 32K miles, has bags of character and represents a great achievement for a small volume manufacturer. But talking at length with respected engine builders and trying out demo cars, it became clear I was not going to get the performance uplift I was looking for.
"After regular visits over the summer to check on progress and to thoroughly clean the chassis whilst the car was up on the ramps (the extent of my mechanical input to the project!), the car was finally ready to pick up in early September, with just enough time to do the running-in miles prior to another European trip."
"In terms of the conversion, nothing major really as I did plenty of research. However, I think Warren wishes that we had started the project six months earlier as juggling the delivery of my project alongside a full racing season with several entries in Britcar was quite an undertaking!
"Of course, what I also didn't really twig at the time was that once you have started a project of this nature it can escalate somewhat, and so the car now has amongst other things a full opening bonnet conversion from Surface & Design based in the original factory in Blackpool, upgraded hifi system from TVR specialist Carl Baker, an MSA bluebook compliant harness bar and six-point belts courtesy also of Topcats, and finally some full carbon fibre bucket seats and matching interior panels from Reverie. The whole project has been really enjoyable but quite time consuming so in hindsight I maybe should have sat down in advance and planned in more detail to have everything completed in one hit."
"Well first off the performance doesn't disappoint. With around 500hp/tonne it clearly doesn't hang about, but it is also surprisingly tractable and easy to drive when you just need to get from A to B. I can safely say I have no immediate plans to buy performance parts for the (currently stock) LS7! I'm really pleased to say it still feels just like a TVR should, and in my opinion it all works together really well as a cohesive whole. In large part, that can be credited to the design and workmanship of the guys I have worked with, particularly the team over at Topcats - so big thanks to Warren, Brian and Tom.
"This actually brings me onto one of the other great benefits of owning a TVR. Over the last couple of years I've received lots of advice and support not only from fellow owners on PH, but also a number of specialists who were happy to help despite not being directly involved - people like Dom from TVR Power, Jason at Str8six and Tim at Act Products to name a few. The community and network around TVR is truly one of the greatest things about ownership."
Things I hate:
"Well, nothing really, to be honest. I was really happy with car beforehand and everything I really wanted to improve upon I have done so. A few of the great TVR idiosyncrasies have been retained however; water collects in the contours on the boot after it has rained so helpfully the when the boot is lifted it channels down to exactly where your feet are, and the catch on the bottom of the boot lid is cunningly placed so that you bang your head on it when you need to get something out - I must be into three figures of doing this. Helpfully, the digital dash is also completely unreadable when the sun is out and the roof is off! Apart from that, the only bugbears are finding the time to use it and getting the perfect weather to remove the roof and go for a proper drive!"
"The project has not been insignificant in terms of costs, but compared to the depreciation on cars of comparative performance and the fact that a large percentage of the car is now effectively new(!), it has been entirely justifiable with the application of a little 'man maths'. Running costs are very reasonable: servicing costs have been reduced as the engine is largely 'fit and forget'; and while insurance is a bit pricey (it is on an agreed value policy, after all), the mpg return is a pretty decent mid 20s on a long run (quite a bit less if you really give it the beans). The road tax is also laughably low as it is on PLG!"
Where I've been:
"Prior to the conversion, I took the car on trips to Le Mans (twice), and the Alps. The first trip post-conversion was a tour to Northern Spain and in 2012 our annual tour majored on the Dolomites. Doing a mountain pass in convoy with fellow petrolheads, roof off and 'pushing on' - it just can't be beaten.
The car has done just over 8,000 largely trouble free miles since the conversion, with the only hiccup being an alternator control wire coming loose. Unfortunately this resulted in total loss of power at the top of a particularly tricky mountain pass, so was a bit of an experience coasting back down with no servo assistance. However, thanks to a quick call to Warren and Brian at Topcats (whilst they were in the midst of a race meeting) and a lucky discovery that the local village had a garage with a ramps, all was fixed in no time with the car bursting back into life with a mother of a backfire!"
"The project is largely finished, barring a little tweaking with the ECU and a potential brake upgrade when the current discs are finished. The plan now is to enjoy it, including more European trips and some track work. The car is most certainly a keeper so future car plans will be sharing garage space with the Tuscan!"
Photography courtesy of PHer kman (Khalid Bari) and a quick taste of how Simon's car sounds on the video clip here. Enjoy!